Metro Mayor slams train maker Stadler over ‘frustratingly poor’ performance of new fleet

Liverpool Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, has publicly upbraided bosses of Swiss trains manufacturer, Stadler, for the “very unreliable” service of the new £500m Merseyrail fleet of Class 777 trains.

The fleet, already up to three years late being introduced into service, is being phased into operation across the Merseyrail network, replacing the current fleet which is around 50 years old.

However, services on the Liverpool to Kirkby line, in particular, have fallen way below the standards expected, said the mayor.

A Liverpool City Region Combined Authority spokesperson revealed: “We can confirm that Mayor Rotheram met with the chief executive of train manufacturer Stadler yesterday afternoon (November 6).

“In what was a full and frank exchange of views the mayor made clear, in no uncertain terms, that current performance of the fleet roll-out had been frustratingly poor and demanded immediate improvements for passengers.

“While we are all exceptionally proud of the investment we’ve made in the country’s first publicly-owned trains in a generation, we are aware that the standards of service specifically on the Kirkby line have fallen well below the high standards that passengers rightly expect.”

They added: “During the introduction of any new technology, such as the battery powered fleet, initial problems are to be expected.

“However, particularly since the opening of the new £80m Headbolt Lane station, the new trains servicing it have been very unreliable and the Mayor and combined authority officers have repeatedly raised concerns about the level of performance with Stadler and also urged Merseyrail, as the train operator, to do everything possible to minimise disruption.

“The mayor sought assurances that the level of service and reliability would improve (as initial teething problems are resolved). Promised performance improvements have not been delivered to date and the CA will be holding commercial discussions to identify appropriate compensation for passengers for the disruption caused.

“The mayor will be making an announcement on what this looks like in the near future. It is our hope – and belief – that these months of disruption will soon be behind us and passengers will enjoy decades of service from a modern, accessible and innovative fleet of trains.”

The Liverpool-Kirkby line has been subject to a series of train cancellations recently due to “train faults”.

Also, some train drivers have complained during training that the new train fleet is far too complicated to operate, with many functions unnecessary for standard requirements.

Prior to introduction, most Merseyrail stations were upgraded to handle the new fleet, which provides a retractable step, making it easier for passengers, particularly the infirm or wheelchair-bound, to alight or board.

But the fleet was late being introduced due to problems at three key stations – Southport, Liverpool Central and Hunts Cross.

Here, eight-car rush-hour trains overshot the signalling systems, making it difficult to re-set signals, requiring further upgrades and delays to the system.